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The boss from the hell - To stay or to leave? (Sep/04/2010 )

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I'm a master student (molecular biology) and have been working in the lab for pretty much one year now. I have enough stuff for my thesis, but decided to continue working for a few extra month. I just wanted to test my antibody :)

I have got practically no help with anything and have spent countless hours trying to solve things by myself, reading literature and posting here ;) I got false information from the boss from the beginning and spent six months trying to get rid of urea, which was fine in the end. I still did dialysis and everything else to get rid of imidazole, even I found out last week after calling the antibody company that it was also all for nothing. My boss just didn't know and kept giving me false information instead of saying how he has no clue.

I have spent countless of days listening how I'm wasting time and money and being practically a total failure. I used to say back at him until I figured out that arguing with idiots is pointless. He doesn't respect me and I have no reason to respect him, so I pretty much just try to do my things even it's also never good. If I do what he tells me to do, I do things wrong. If I do something else, I do things wrong, so in short, I can't do anything right.

I was really pissed off after the phone call, but never jumped at him and said the issue is solved. He has been out of control in the past few days...

He is telling everybody while laughing how the purpose of having me in the lab is having someone to blame about anything and everything. When the centrifuge broke down he was screaming at me how it's my fault, even I wasn't even touching the machine. When the technician broke a pipet, I'm the one breaking it. When someone is having problems with her laptop (where the windows is in a language I don't speak, write or read), he is yelling at me how I shouldn't just sit still and approach the issue like any other scientific problem and try to find a solution. He is mocking me in front of everybody and also privately. It's a never ending cycle. When I take a holiday he is making sure to tell me how he never took a single one while doing the Ph.D. Never mind that after this year, I have no plans to continue doing anything with science.

I like the work, but mentally I'm starting to be in the edge.
My contract is running another four months and then I'm free.
I just don't know what to do anymore...

He knows he is killing me and the pressure is knocking me down, but he doesn't care.
When I finished my 60 hours working week yesterday he comes to tell me a lit of things I should have done ages ago.
He just doesn't let me breath.

How do you actually deal with bosses like this?
Is it better to suck it up or then just slam the door and move on...


I know very well how you feel... :(

Is he the boss out there or does he have a superior? If it's the latter you may think about talking with his direct superior about his behaviour. Also since you're a student you should have a representative who's responsibility is to help you deal with this kind of situations.


K.B. on Sat Sep 4 20:44:24 2010 said:

I know very well how you feel... :(

Is he the boss out there or does he have a superior? If it's the latter you may think about talking with his direct superior about his behaviour. Also since you're a student you should have a representative who's responsibility is to help you deal with this kind of situations.

He is a professor and I'm working at the university. The problem is that I'm actually a registered student in another country... I was an exchange student in here for one year and wanted to my thesis in here. I have no clue how students rights are in this country. I know for a fact that he would get a warning in my university. The thing is that it's very well known that he is after me (well, it's pretty obvious as he is "joking" about it in public). Someone said that I should sit down with him and just tell him how things have to change, but others tell me not do anything and just ignore him... I have been supervising bachelor students in the past few months in a practical course and it was also really fun. My boss ordered me to do it, I did a great job and while they gave their presentations the professor was yelling at me or again joking about me. How even "my" students are supposed to respect me when this professor is putting down their "supervisor". I also don't get why he is giving me these students when the outcome is always the same. And it's of course my fault if these students do horrible, because I was their supervisor even it's pretty difficult to supervise students whose only sentence they give me is "I don't care". This entire thing is just hideous...

I just wish he would let me alone and do my job. He can't supervise or teach me anything for sure, but I don't need any artificial stress. And I'm more than worried about my next progress report as I don't know how long I can take this without exploding and obviously after you slam the door while cursing you pretty much can't do anything anymore ;) I have worked hard and managed to produce the results he wanted. He should be happy and grateful for having a slave like me working 60-80 hours a week for nothing, but somehow he just hates me.

It's kind of interesting how a professor can be so unprofessional. I get they are also humans, but this persecution is still going to kill me. He is going to be away this week and I'm going to stay home to shake off the last week and get ready for the report.


Hi Juliasarmoire,

I understand how you feel. I'm in a situation not much better than you do.
Just To be fair, maybe I'm slightly little better than you.

From what I understand:

Nobody says professors/your supervisor MUST be professional, well-knowledge, or have a good personality.
There is no rule saying supervisors MUST be helpful or help postgraduate student in research.
There is no rule saying supervisors MUST care about your working environment (BSL1/2/3...doesn't matters to them at all).

But supervisors,
wanted your results for sure!
squeeze you as hard as he/she could!
treat you as free labor!
blame you for just anything and everything!

Have you seen supervisor(s) creating "hatred" among the postgraduates, and watch them fighting among each other?
Have you seen supervisor(s) denied your instruments / equipments usage just because you are not the favorite student?
Some even scold you for purchasing a chemical, confiscate it and give to other "favorite" student where the chemical is actually really useful to you.
I had, I had seen quite a number...both he and she.

Some even expect you to come out with results without provide the proper tools for you.
Just like asking you to do PCR but did not provide you a thermalcycler, and expect you to do it with 3 water bath and this is okay with them because is not them who do the work. I'm not kidding. This is indeed happening to me.

It seems that the supervisor(S) I had meet so far was not much difference with yours.

For sure, you had done your best and there is nothing to regret. At least this is what I told myself.

My advice to you: do whatever you seems fit.
Even to the extend that you quarrel with them (I did it once, where my boss force me to pay the repair using my grant money for instruments which was not damaged by me and I rarely use it).

-adrian kohsf-

I think we’ve discussed these same topics here in one form or another and I’ve also heard a lot of similar horror stories before…. but making you do PCR the old-fashioned way Adrian, shld be right there at the top. Did they at least give you Taq or did you have to add the Klenow fragment in each cycle or for more fun, do a touchdown PCR? And how did you report your results- PCR was done using Bio-KhoAd thermanocycler2010. Seriously though, how were the results?

Oh, and I think there are rules for professors and PIs and it’s part of their academic duties to teach and supervise…just check out their CVs… their supervising stints are all there. And the same goes for research associates and post-docs….it’s in their job description. Furthermore, it’s also in the university charter of students rights so the students shld expect to be taught and to learn and be treated with respect and if these rights are violated (thru any act or failure to act by a member of the university occupying a position of authority), they can go to the grievance committee for resolution of these issues. But I know, I know….who has time and energy to do all this? When in hell, you just wanna get out of there as fast as you can. Sadly, most students will just go.

Hopefully, they didn’t break your spirit, nor your love for science and research and that you’d still become the PI that everybody wants to have…and perhaps you shld add Nietsche’s famous quote in your sig, Adrian: “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” …:P

hi Juliasarmoire: you can’t quit now cos you’re almost done and why do you think he targeted you? Because you’re an exchange student? Don’t you have a program director from your own country that you can discuss this with because the least you can do is to inform your end so that they won’t be sending another student who might suffer the same harassment and intimidation. Ppfftt….really….these bosses from hell….why can’t they just stay there… :)


Hi Casandra, this is very nice of you. I'll buy you a beer if so happen that we meet, or a nice tea if you are veggie...

Actually is a very long story. But for sure I didn't end up in using 3 water bath simply because there is only 1 water bath in my lab (luckily).
Yeah, my lab do not have thermalcycler, and our collaborative lab was always fully booked.
It used to be in a situation (A machine I booked was broken down) I was badly pressured, and I got no choice but to carry my 96-well plate visit from lab to lab till I almost visited the whole faculty (not just my department)just to find a thermalcycler for me to use. After I found one, but it seems that I was only allowed to use for 1 and a half hour. No choice, I can't use it, and I have to wait from morning 10am till 7pm at night for my turn (luckily again I'm using hotstart taq). So, for all subsequent reactions, I use a different taq which have a faster amplification rate, and my PCR reactions time goes within 1.5 hour to complete.
I'm just not those kind of person who allowed my result to be compromised because of all these.
You know Casandra, that piece of work is just a side project my PI "tricked" me to do.

Thermalcycler is just one of the many. I still have to struggle for biosafety hood, sonicator, freezedryer etc. Even lab space and fridge space.

And... there is no such "student rights" practice in my place... This is the reason I struggle with all my strength to get out of here, and I always have to compromise to use facility at from mid-night, dawn till morning. But then, why must I'm the only one who compromise? So, we have a meeting with hope to solve all these but it was a failure after all, simply because my PIs just sitting there and ask the postgrads to compromise with each other (which created hostile among us), without taking initiative to solve the problem.

Anyway, thanks for your words Casandra. Also, I will consider to put this “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” in my sig as well.. :D :) :P :lol: ;)
But then, the bacteria that I'm dealing with if doesn't kills me, will makes me suffer for life... :(

Yeah... I learn my lesson in a hard way: Life is unfair, get on with it. LOL :) :blink: <_< :rolleyes:

-adrian kohsf-

I like your new sig, Adrian (it's nice to plagiarise Nietzsche)....:P....btw, are you almost done with your thesis? Then you must feel very proud of what you've accomplished- lots of real hard work, resourcefulness, with no shortcuts nor freebies and yet you managed successfully in the end- this shld be enough payback for you. And then 'tis time to move on hopefully to better things. Let us know when you finally get the PhD we can tease you here....:)


Hi Casandra...
I am still far from my thesis to be completed.
PhD? wow... haha, I'm still doing my master at the moment. I'll let you to tease me anytime... ^_^

-adrian kohsf-

adrian kohsf on Thu Sep 9 04:36:21 2010 said:

Hi Casandra...
I am still far from my thesis to be completed.
PhD? wow... haha, I'm still doing my master at the moment. I'll let you to tease me anytime... ^_^

hey Adrian....all these blood, sweat and tears for a masters degree? My better bail out of there really quick cos imagine what s/he will make you do for a PhD degree.....:P..btw, are you from KL?


I was in a lab where I felt like there was absolutely nothing I could do right. I used to joke that the PI could only go about 2 weeks before yelling at me for something or other.
It started to get worse where the technician for the lab began to really sabotage my experiments or she would run to tell the PI when things weren't going right. It's research-- NOTHING EVER GOES RIGHT!
My PI "volunteered" me to teach a lab of his and some how the incubator that kept my stocks and my students' mammalian cells was mysteriously tampered with-- i.e. the temp was raised and the amount of CO2 was reduced. Hmm, odd indeed.

I started working later at nights and during the weekends when people left. Interestingly enough, my results started to come out better. At one point, my PI asked me what I started to do differently. I told him work at nights and during the weekends when no one was around. I also documented when I came in and when I left so it would be clear that I was clearly working and not just "hanging out" as it was suggested.

Things didn't really start to get better until the technician left about a year before I did.

I remember saying how much I hated going into the lab and how I felt like no matter what I did-- it was never enough. And because I wasn't the 'favorite", my efforts and my results were always minimized.

When I left from there, I realized something: I can deal with anything. It's tough to do, but I think that if you try and focus on the positive-- you'll get through anything.

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